Friday, 27 November 2015

The World's Fastest Indian (5 Stars)

30 films to watch before you die, #27

If there's ever a film that I beg people to watch, this is it. It's a film that flopped at the box office, despite featuring Anthony Hopkins as lead actor, but everyone I know who's seen it loves it. As I've previously mentioned, after my first review in 2010 a friend of mine decided to watch it, and her reaction was, "Wow, Mike, that's my new favourite film". Those words exactly. This is a film that touches the heart of everyone who watches it.

So why wasn't it successful? I think the main disadvantage was the film's title. What did people think when they saw that a film showing in their local cinema was called "The World's Fastest Indian"? Most Americans would imagine a red-skinned warrior in a colourful headdress running through the desert. Most Europeans would imagine a dark-skinned man from India running through the jungle. Either way it's an ethnic "Forrest Gump" without the political padding. That wouldn't even appeal to me either.

The Indian referred to in the title is actually a 1920 Indian Scout motorbike, built in Springfield, Massachusetts. Even the people who discovered this fact weren't interested in the film. "Racing bikes? Running round and round in circuits? Not my thing".

Those members of the public who really took the time and effort to research what the film was about would have found out it's the true story of the New Zealander Burt Munro and his first trip to America in 1962 to attempt to break the land speed record for two-wheel vehicles. "That sounds boring. Definitely not my thing".

In interviews Anthony Hopkins says it's the best film he's ever made. That's high praise for a man with his distinguished career. So what is the film really about? The summary I gave in the last paragraph is accurate, but there's so much more to the film. It's a story of human determination. It shows how a man can succeed when everything, even his own body, is against him. From the very first minutes of the film we fall in love with the eccentric old man who lives in a bike shed surrounded by overgrown weeds. His age isn't stated in the film, but Burt Munro was born in 1899, making him 63 years old in 1962. That's not an age when normal people think about setting new speed records. Burt Munro was anything but normal.

The old-fashioned look of the remote town Invercargill, the southernmost town in New Zealand, is bizarrely quaint to European viewers like me. It seems like a different world. Most of the film is a road movie, showing Burt's trip across the USA from Los Angeles to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Admittedly, it was only 750 miles, but it was a long ordeal for Burt in his $250 car. On the way he encounters people with varying levels of strangeness, similar to David Lynch's "Wild at Heart".

It's a film for young and old. It's a film for the family to watch together. I know no other film that's so uplifting. In my first review I wrote, "When the final credits roll you will close your eyes and feel glad to be alive". A friend of mine (not the one mentioned above) read my review and accused me of exaggerating. A week later she watched the film, and she told me that she understood what I meant and totally agreed with me. I'm not exaggerating. Many films in my 30 films list are matters of taste, especially for people who don't like science fiction films. This is a film I know you will like.

I feel reluctant to recommend any films for further viewing, because none even come close, but you might want to watch other films starring Anthony Hopkins, such as

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